Prior to Scott Laughton's return from the Philadelphia Flyers, there was a perception the OHL's Oshawa Generals would have to begin a rebuilding phase. Once the 19-year-old was returned to junior, the Generals shot to the top of its conference, which it leads by eight points halfway through the season.
That was not all Laughton, but it speaks to the effect the centre can have on his teammates on the ice and in the dressing room. That's led to Laughton being named captain of Team Canada for the International Ice Hockey Federation world U20 championship, where this country's national junior team is vying to end a four-year gold medal drought. Mathew Dumba, the defenceman on loan from the NHL's Minnesota Wild, and returning forward Jonathan Drouin, the Tampa Bay Lightning No. 3 overall pick from the Halifax Mooseheads, will serve as alternates.
— Team Canada Men (@HC_Men) December 19, 2013
Laughton's progression with Oshawa fits in with the Team Canada mould, as he established himself as a strong two-way player over his first two seasons with the Generals. His willingness to "park your ego at the door and focus on the team," not to mention win faceoffs, also endeared him to Hockey Canada at the under-17 and U18 levels.
Laughton wasn't invited to Canada's final selection camp last season, but shortly after the world junior, his maturity helped him break camp with the Flyers for the delayed start to the NHL season. He played in five games before returning to the Generals, where he's become an unquestioned leader, supplementing Florida Panthers-drafted defenceman Josh Brown's work as the captain.
Drouin should need little introduction. The 18-year-old Quebecer has 50 points in 23 Quebec League games for Halifax since the Lightning decided to give him another season in junior. He's pencilled in to be Canada's most important cog offensively.
Drouin took about 10 days off after sustaining a mild brain injury when he was checked from behind by Team USA hopeful Adam Erne during a QMJHL game on Dec. 6. He has resumed taking contact in practices.
Dumba captained Canada at the world under-18 championship in 2011 just weeks before the Wild made him a No. 7 overall draft choice. The Calgarian took a good run at cracking the roster in each of the past two seasons but was a late cut. He jumped up from the WHL's Red Deer Rebels to the Wild, but after two months of riding the seventh-defenceman carousel, was loaned to Canada. Sutter, who coached him in Red Deer, calls him "one of the best defencemen in our country for the last year." Dumba's acumen with rushing the puck and delivering open-ice checks also makes him a huge asset.
New York Islanders first-rounder Griffin Reinhart is the only returning defenceman for Canada and captains the Edmonton Oil Kings, but his suspension for the tournament's first three games likely makes Dumba a better option to wear a letter.
Ultimately, the choices give Canada one player from each major junior league wearing a letter. It also embodies Canada's need for scoring, good defensive forwards and defencemen who can make impact plays in all three zones.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to email@example.com.